Re-Ripping CDs with iTunes

You may occasionally want to re-rip one or more CDs that you own. One of the most common reasons for this is to rip CDs at a higher bit rate than you did back when disk space was more limited.

Wen you do this, you may want to ensure that you don’t lose metadata for the existing files. Not just the names of the tracks, albums and artists, but also information like play counts, artwork and ratings. If you do this carefully, you can ensure that when you re-rip CDs, you keep all the metadata.

The first thing you should know is that, if you rip a CD, and you already have the tracks in your iTunes library, iTunes will alert you to this, asking if you want to replace the existing tracks:


This is, in fact, what you want to do when re-ripping CDs. When iTunes replaces existing tracks, it only replaces the music. It retains all the other metadata, and it keeps the tracks in any playlists you’ve created. (If you re-rip and add the tracks to your iTunes library anew, then delete the old ones, these tracks will no longer be in playlists, though they will be in smart playlists.) But iTunes can only replace existing tracks if all the metadata matches.

So if you want to re-rip a CD, and have iTunes replace the music, you need to ensure that all the tags – the ones you can change – are the same. These are Name, Album, Artist, Genre, Year, Disc Number, Composer, Grouping, Album Artist and Comments. If any of these are different – if there’s even a comma or different capitalization – iTunes will think the track is different.

When you insert the CD, and examine it in iTunes, you can check the tags, comparing them to the existing files. You can correct any differences manually, or you can use Doug Adams’ Copy Tag Info Tracks to Tracks AppleScript. Read the information on Doug’s site to find out how to use this script.

I find it best to rip CDs by dragging their tracks to a “Temp” playlist; this lets me examine the tracks without having to find them in my iTunes library. If you want to re-rip CDs, I recommend making another playlist with their tracks, then checking that playlist after you rip each CD. You should see the tracks have been replaced. So, if you had tracks at 128 kbps, and you’re re-ripping them at 256 kbps, you’ll see the new bit rate in the playlist.

If you follow this procedure when re-ripping CDs, you’ll find that you save a lot of time: not only do you not have to manually update tags, but you also retain all the metadata that you can’t edit.

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6 replies
  1. CJ says:

    I have a scenario that is very close to this one but not involving CDs.

    I have older versions of songs from the iTunes Store that have newer versions available at higher bit rate and without DRM. Having downloaded these better versions, I now have duplicates of the songs, one at the lower bit rate with DRM and one at the higher bit rate without DRM. I want to get rid of the old versions but first I need to apply the playlist info (and preferably other metadata) from the old versions to the new versions.

    Will a similar method work for this scenario?

  2. Kirk McElhearn says:

    Whenever I downloaded iTunes Plus versions of older tracks, they replaced the existing tracks. But if you had changed any tags, that might have caused duplicates.

    You’ll have to make the changes manually, but with Doug’s script, you can copy all the metadata that you can’t change (play counts, etc.).

  3. CJ says:

    I probably changed the genre. If I change the genre on the old tracks to what the genre on the new tracks have and then download them again, should they replace the old versions while retaining the rest of the metadata, most importantly the playlist info?

  4. Galley says:

    I’ve never bothered with creating a temporary playlist. If I see any tracks in the Recently Added playlist, I know the metadata didn’t match and those need fixing.

  5. Rubèn says:

    This has worked for me perfectly fine for months but unfortunately, if the previous song at 128 was uploaded using iTunes Match, there is no re-upload. iCloud keeps the one at 128.


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